TO THE BISHOPS, PRIESTS,
AND LAY FAITHFUL
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
IN THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
1. Dear Brother Bishops, dear priests, consecrated persons and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China: ‘‘We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven ... We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy'' (Col 1:3-5, 9-11).
These words of the Apostle Paul are highly appropriate for expressing the sentiments that I, as the Successor of Peter and universal Pastor of the Church, feel towards you. You know well how much you are present in my heart and in my daily prayer and how deep is the relationship of communion that unites us spiritually.
Purpose of the Letter
2. I wish, therefore, to convey to all of you the expression of my fraternal closeness. With intense joy I acknowledge your faithfulness to Christ the Lord and to the Church, a faithfulness that you have manifested ‘‘sometimes at the price of grave sufferings'',1 since ‘‘it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for
his sake'' (Phil 1:29). Nevertheless, some important aspects of the ecclesial life of your country give cause for concern.
Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well known to you, I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, ‘‘the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history'' 2 wants from you.
THE SITUATION OF THE CHURCH
Globalization, modernity and atheism
3. As I turn my attention towards your People, which has distinguished itself among the other peoples of Asia for the splendour of its ancient civilization, with all its experience of wisdom, philosophy, art and science, I am pleased to note how, especially in recent times, it has also moved decisively towards achieving significant goals of socio-economic progress, attracting the interest of the entire world.
As my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II once said, ‘‘The Catholic Church for her part regards with respect this impressive thrust and far-sighted planning, and with discretion offers her own contribution in the promotion and defence of the human person, and of the person's values, spirituality and transcendent vocation. The Church has very much at heart the values and objectives which are of primary importance also to modern China: solidarity, peace, social justice, the wise management of the phenomenon of globalization''.3
The pressure to attain the desired and necessary economic and social development and the search for modernity are accompanied by two different and contrasting phenomena, both of which should nonetheless be evaluated with equal prudence and a positive apostolic spirit. On the one hand, especially among the young, one can detect a growing interest in the spiritual and transcendent dimension of the human person, with a consequent interest in religion, particularly in Christianity. On the other hand, there are signs, in China too, of the tendency towards materialism and hedonism, which are spreading from the big cities to the entire country.4
In this context, in which you are called to live and work, I want to remind you of what Pope John Paul II emphasized so strongly and vigorously: the new evangelization demands the proclamation of the Gospel 5 to modern man, with a keen awareness that, just as during the first Christian millennium the Cross was planted in Europe and during the second in the American continent and in Africa, so during the third millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in the vast and vibrant Asian continent.6
" ‘Duc in altum' (Lk 5:4). These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever' (Heb 13:8)''.7 In
China too the Church is called to be a witness of Christ, to look forward with hope, and – in proclaiming the Gospel – to measure up to the new challenges that the Chinese People must face.
The word of God helps us, once again, to discover the mysterious and profound meaning of the Church's path in the world. In fact ‘‘the subject of one of the most important visions of the Book of Revelation is [the] Lamb in the act of opening a scroll, previously closed with seven seals that no one had been able to break open. John is even shown in tears, for he finds no one worthy of
opening the scroll or reading it (cf. Rev 5:4). History remains indecipherable, incomprehensible. No one can read it. Perhaps John's weeping before the mystery of a history so obscure expresses the Asian Churches' dismay at God's silence in the face of the persecutions to which they were exposed at the time. It is a dismay that can clearly mirror our consternation in the face of the serious difficulties, misunderstandings and hostility that the Church also suffers today in various parts of the world. These are trials that the Church does not of course deserve, just as Jesus himself did not deserve his torture. However, they reveal both the wickedness of man, when he abandons himself to the promptings of evil, and also the superior ordering of events on God's part''.8
Today, as in the past, to proclaim the Gospel means to preach and bear witness to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the new Man, conqueror of sin and death. He enables human beings to enter into a new dimension, where mercy and love shown even to enemies can bear witness to the victory of the Cross over all weakness and human wretchedness. In your country too, the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen will be possible to the extent that, with fidelity to the
Gospel, in communion with the Successor of the Apostle Peter and with the universal Church, you are able to put into practice the signs of love and unity (‘‘even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another ... even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us, so
that the world may believe that you have sent me'' – Jn 13:34-35; 17:21).
Willingness to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue
4. As universal Pastor of the Church, I wish to manifest sincere gratitude to the Lord for the deeply-felt witness of faithfulness offered by the Chinese Catholic community in truly difficult circumstances. At the same time, I sense the urgent need, as my deep and compelling duty and as an expression of my paternal love, to confirm the faith of Chinese Catholics and favour their unity with the means proper to the Church.
I am also following with particular interest the events of the entire Chinese People, whom I regard with sincere admiration and sentiments of friendship, to the point where I express the hope ‘‘that concrete forms of communication and cooperation between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China may soon be established. Friendship is nourished by contacts, by a sharing in the joy and sadness of different situations, by solidarity and mutual assistance''.9 And pursuing this line of argument, my venerable predecessor added: ‘‘It is no secret that the Holy See, in the name of the whole Catholic Church and, I believe, for the benefit of the whole human family, hopes for the opening of some form of dialogue with the authorities of the People's Republic of China. Once the misunderstandings of the past have been overcome, such a dialogue would make it possible for us to work together for the good of the Chinese People and for peace in the world''.10
I realize that the normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China requires time and presupposes the good will of both parties. For its part, the Holy See always remains open to negotiations, so necessary if the difficulties of the present time are to be overcome.
This situation of misunderstandings and incomprehension weighs heavily, serving the interests of neither the Chinese authorities nor the Catholic Church in China. As Pope John Paul II stated, recalling what Father Matteo Ricci wrote from Beijing,11 ‘‘so too today the Catholic Church seeks no privilege from China and its lead- ers, but solely the resumption of dialogue, in order to build a relationship based upon mutual respect and deeper understanding''.12 Let China rest assured that the Catholic Church sincerely proposes to offer, once again, humble and disinterested service in the areas of her competence, for the good of Chinese Catholics and for the good of
all the inhabitants of the country.
As far as relations between the political community and the Church in China are concerned, it is worth calling to mind the enlightening teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which states: ‘‘The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor is she tied to any political system. She is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person''. And the Council continues: ‘‘The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. They are both at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same individuals, though under different titles. Their service will be more efficient and beneficial to all if both institutions develop better cooperation according to the circumstances of place and time''.13
Likewise, therefore, the Catholic Church which is in China does not have a mission to change the structure or administration of the State; rather, her mission is to proclaim Christ to men and women, as the Saviour of the world, basing herself – in carrying out her proper apostolate – on the power of God. As I recalled in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, ‘‘The Church cannot and
must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply''.14
In the light of these unrenounceable principles, the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities; at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church. The civil authorities are well aware that the Church in her teaching invites the faithful to be good citizens, respectful and active contributors to the common good in their country, but it is likewise clear that she asks the State to guarantee to those same Catholic citizens the full exercise of their faith, with respect for authentic religious freedom.
Communion between particular Churches in the universal Church
In the Catholic Church which is in China, the universal Church is present, the Church of Christ, which in the Creed we acknowledge to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, that is to say, the universal community of the Lord's disciples.
As you know, the profound unity which binds together the particular Churches found in China, and which likewise places them in intimate communion with all the other particular Churches throughout the world, has its roots not only in the same faith and in a common Baptism, but above all in the Eucharist and in the episcopate.15 Likewise, the unity of the episcopate, of which ‘‘the Roman Pontiff, as the Successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation'',16 continues down the centuries through the apostolic succession and is the foundation of the identity of the Church in every age with the Church built by Christ on Peter and on the other Apostles.17
Catholic doctrine teaches that the Bishop is the visible source and foundation of unity in the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral ministry.18 But in every particular Church, in order that she may be fully Church, there must be present the supreme authority of the Church, that is to say, the episcopal College together with its Head, the Roman Pontiff, and never apart from him. Therefore the ministry of the Successor of Peter belongs to the essence of every particular Church ‘‘from within''.19 Moreover, the communion of all the particular Churches in the one Catholic Church, and hence the ordered hierarchical communion of all the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, with the Successor of Peter, are a guarantee of the unity of the faith and life of all Catholics. It is therefore indispensable, for the unity of the Church in individual nations, that every Bishop should be in communion with the other Bishops, and that all should be in visible and concrete communion with the Pope.
No one in the Church is a foreigner, but all are citizens of the same People, members of the same Mystical Body of Christ. The bond of sacramental communion is the Eucharist, guaranteed by the ministry of Bishops and priests.20
The whole of the Church which is in China is called to live and to manifest this unity in a richer spirituality of communion, so that, taking account of the complex concrete situations in which the Catholic community finds itself, she may also grow in a harmonious hierarchical communion. Therefore, Pastors and faithful are called to defend and to safeguard what belongs to the doctrine and the tradition of the Church.
Tensions and divisions within the Church: pardon and reconciliation
6. Addressing the whole Church in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, stated that an ‘‘important area in which there has to be commitment and planning on the part of the universal Church and the particular Churches [is] the domain of communion (koinonia), which embodies and reveals the very essence of the mystery of the Church. Communion is the fruit and demonstration of that love which springs from the heart of the Eternal Father and is poured out upon us through the Spirit whom Jesus gives us (cf. Rom 5:5), to make us all ‘one heart and one soul' (Acts 4:32). It is in building this communion of love that the Church appears as ‘sacrament', as the ‘sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the human race.' The Lord's words on this point are too precise for us to diminish their import. Many things are necessary for the Church's journey through history, not least in this new century; but without charity (agape) all will be in vain. It is again the Apostle Paul who in his hymn to love reminds us: even if we speak the tongues of men and of angels, and if we have faith ‘to move mountains', but are without love, all will come to ‘nothing' (cf. 1 Cor 13:2). Love is truly the ‘heart' of the Church''.21
These matters, which concern the very nature of the universal Church, have a particular significance for the Church which is in China. Indeed you are aware of the problems that she is seeking to overcome – within herself and in her relations with Chinese civil society – tensions, divisions and recriminations.In this regard, last year, while speaking of the nascent Church, I had occasion to recall that ‘‘from the start the community of the disciples has known not only the joy of the Holy Spirit, the grace of truth and love, but also trials that are constituted above all by disagreements about the truths of faith, with the consequent wounds to communion. Just as the fellowship of love has existed since the outset and will continue to the end (cf. 1 Jn 1:1ff.), so also, from the start, division unfortunately arose. We should not be surprised that it still exists today ... Thus, in the events of the world but also in the weaknesses of the Church, there is always a risk of losing faith, hence, also love and brotherhood. Consequently it is a specific duty of those who believe in the Church of love and want to live in her to recognize this danger too''.22
The history of the Church teaches us, then, that authentic communion is not expressed without arduous efforts at reconciliation.23 Indeed, the purification of memory, the pardoning of wrong-doers, the forgetting of injustices suffered and the loving restoration to serenity of troubled hearts, all to be accomplished in the name of Jesus crucified and risen, can require moving beyond personal positions or viewpoints, born of painful or difficult experiences. These are urgent steps that must be taken if the bonds of communion between the faithful and the Pastors of the Church in China are to grow and be made visible.
For this reason, my venerable predecessor on several occasions addressed to you an urgent invitation to pardon and reconciliation. In this regard, I am pleased to recall a passage from the message that he sent you at the approach of the Holy Year 2000: ‘‘In your preparation for the Great Jubilee, remember that in the biblical tradition this moment always entailed the obligation to forgive one another's debts, to make satisfaction for injustices committed, and to be reconciled with one's neighbour. You too have heard the proclamation of the ‘great joy prepared for all peoples': the love and mercy of the Father, the Redemption accomplished in Christ. To the extent that you yourselves are ready to accept this joyful proclamation, you will be able to pass it on, by your lives, to the men and women around you. My ardent desire is that you will
respond to the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit by forgiving one another whatever needs to be forgiven, by drawing closer to one another, by accepting one another and by breaking down all barriers in order to overcome every possible cause of division. Do not forget the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: ‘By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13:35). I rejoiced when I learned that you intend your most precious gift on the occasion of the Great Jubilee to be unity among yourselves and unity with the Successor of Peter. This intention can only be a fruit of the Spirit who guides the Church along the arduous paths of reconciliation and unity''.24
We all realize that this journey cannot be accomplished overnight, but be assured that the whole Church will raise up an insistent prayer for you to this end.
Keep in mind, moreover, that your path of reconciliation is supported by the example and the prayer of so many ‘‘witnesses of the faith'' who have suffered and have forgiven, offering their lives for the future of the Catholic Church in China. Their very existence represents a permanent blessing for you in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and their memory will not fail to produce abundant fruit.
Ecclesial communities and State agencies: relationships to be lived in truth and
7. A careful analysis of the aforementioned painful situation of serious differences (cf. section 6 above), involving the lay faithful and their Pastors, highlights among the various causes the significant part played by entities that have been imposed as the principal determinants of the life of the Catholic community. Still today, in fact, recognition from these entities is the criterion for declaring a community, a person or a religious place legal and therefore ‘‘official''. All this has caused division both among the clergy and among the lay faithful. It is a situation primarily dependent on factors external to the Church, but it has seriously conditioned her progress, giving rise also to suspicions, mutual accusations and recriminations, and it continues to be a weakness in the Church that causes concern.
Regarding the delicate issue of the relations to be maintained with the agencies
of the State, particular enlightenment can be found in the invitation of the
Second Vatican Council to follow the words and modus operandi of Jesus
Christ. He, indeed, ‘‘did not wish to be a political Messiah who would dominate
by force 25 but preferred to call himself the Son of Man who came to
serve, and ‘to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mk 10:45). He showed
himself as the perfect Servant of God 26 who ‘will not break a
bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick' (Mt 12:20). He recognized
civil authority and its rights when he ordered tribute to be paid to Caesar, but
he gave clear warning that the greater rights of God must be respected: ‘Render
therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God, the things that
are God's' (Mt 22:21). Finally, he brought his revelation to perfection
when he accomplished on the Cross the work of redemption by which he achieved
salvation and true freedom for the human race. For he bore witness to the truth
27 but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke out
against it. His Kingdom does not establish its claims by force,28 but
is established by bearing witness to and listening to the truth and it grows by
the love with which Christ, lifted up on the Cross, draws people to himself (cf.
Truth and charity are the two supporting pillars of the life of the Christian
community. For this reason, I have observed that ‘‘the Church of love is also
the Church of truth, understood primarily as fidelity to the Gospel entrusted by
the Lord Jesus to his followers ... However, if the family of God's children is
to live in unity and peace, it needs someone to keep it in the truth and guide
it with wise and authoritative discernment: this is what the ministry of the
Apostles is required to do. And here we come to an important point. The Church
is wholly of the Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is
responsible for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given by
Christ, from whom the capacity to love also comes ... The Apostles and their
successors are therefore the custodians and authoritative witnesses of the
deposit of truth consigned to the Church, and are likewise the ministers of
charity. These are two aspects that go together ... Truth and love are the two
faces of the same gift that comes from God and, thanks to the apostolic
ministry, is safeguarded in the Church and handed down to us, to our present
Therefore the Second Vatican Council underlines that "those also have a claim
on our respect and charity who think and act differently from us in social,
political, and religious matters. In fact, the more deeply, through courtesy and
love, we come to understand their ways of thinking, the more easily will we be
able to enter into dialogue with them''. But, as the same Council admonishes us,
"love and courtesy of this kind should not, of course, make us indifferent to
truth and goodness''.31
Considering "Jesus' original plan'',32 it is clear that the claim of
some entities, desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the
Church, to place themselves above the Bishops and to guide the life of the
ecclesial community, does not correspond to Catholic doctrine, according to
which the Church is "apostolic'', as the Second Vatican Council underlined. The
Church is apostolic "in her origin because she has been built on ‘the
foundation of the Apostles' (Eph 2:20). She is apostolic in her teaching which is the same as that of the Apostles. She is apostolic by
reason of her structure insofar as she is taught, sanctified, and guided
until Christ returns by the Apostles through their successors who are the
Bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter''.33 Therefore, in
every individual particular Church, "it is in the name of the Lord that the
diocesan Bishop [and only he] leads the flock entrusted to him, and he does so
as the proper, ordinary and immediate Pastor''; 34 at a national
level, moreover, only a legitimate Episcopal Conference can formulate pastoral
guidelines, valid for the entire Catholic community of the country concerned.35
Likewise, the declared purpose of the afore-mentioned entities to implement
"the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic
administration of the Church'' 36 is incompatible with Catholic
doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic''.
In the light of the principles here outlined, Pastors and lay faithful will
recall that the preaching of the Gospel, catechesis and charitable activity,
liturgical and cultic action, as well as all pastoral choices, are uniquely the
competence of the Bishops together with their priests in the unbroken continuity
of the faith handed down by the Apostles in the Sacred Scriptures and in
Tradition, and therefore they cannot be subject to any external interference.
Given this difficult situation, not a few members of the Catholic community are
asking whether recognition from the civil authorities – necessary in order to
function publicly – somehow compromises communion with the universal Church. I
am fully aware that this problem causes painful disquiet in the hearts of
Pastors and faithful. In this regard I maintain, in the first place, that the
requisite and courageous safeguarding of the deposit of faith and of sacramental
and hierarchical communion is not of itself opposed to dialogue with the
authorities concerning those aspects of the life of the ecclesial community that
fall within the civil sphere. There would not be any particular difficulties with acceptance of the recognition granted by civil authorities on condition
that this does not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and
of ecclesiastical communion. In not a few particular instances, however, indeed
almost always, in the process of recognition the intervention of certain bodies
obliges the people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and undertake
commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their conscience as Catholics.
I understand, therefore, how in such varied conditions and circumstances it is
difficult to determine the correct choice to be made. For this reason the Holy
See, after restating the principles, leaves the decision to the individual
Bishop who, having consulted his presbyterate, is better able to know the local
situation, to weigh the concrete possibilities of choice and to evaluate the
possible consequences within the diocesan community. It could be that the final
decision does not obtain the consensus of all the priests and faithful. I
express the hope, however, that it will be accepted, albeit with suffering, and
that the unity of the diocesan community with its own Pastor will be maintained.
It would be good, finally, if Bishops and priests, with truly pastoral hearts,
were to take every possible step to avoid giving rise to situations of scandal,
seizing opportunities to form the consciences of the faithful, with particular
attention to the weakest: all this should be lived out in communion and in
fraternal understanding, avoiding judgements and mutual condemnations. In this
case too, it must be kept in mind, especially where there is little room for
freedom, that in order to evaluate the morality of an act it is necessary to
devote particular care to establishing the real intentions of the person
concerned, in addition to the objective shortcoming. Every case, then, will have
to be pondered individually, taking account of the circumstances.
The Chinese Episcopate
8. In the Church – the People of God – only the sacred ministers, duly ordained
after sufficient instruction and formation, may exercise the office of
‘‘teaching, sanctifying and governing''. The lay faithful may, with a canonical
mission from the Bishop, perform an ancillary ecclesial ministry of handing on
In recent years, for various reasons, you, my Brother Bishops, have encountered
difficulties, since persons who are not "ordained'', and sometimes not even
baptized, control and take decisions concerning important ecclesial questions,
including the appointment of Bishops, in the name of various State agencies.
Consequently, we have witnessed a demeaning of the Petrine and episcopal ministries by virtue of a vision of the Church according to
which the Supreme Pontiff, the Bishops and the priests risk becoming de facto persons without office and without power. Yet in fact, as stated earlier, the
Petrine and episcopal ministries are essential and integral elements of Catholic
doctrine on the sacramental structure of the Church. The nature of the Church is
a gift of the Lord Jesus, because "his gifts were that some should be apostles,
some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints
for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all
attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to
mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ'' (Eph 4:11-13).
Communion and unity – let me repeat (cf. section 5 above) – are essential and
integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church
that is ‘‘independent'' of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is
incompatible with Catholic doctrine.
I am aware of the grave difficulties which you have to address in the
aforementioned situation in order to remain faithful to Christ, to his Church
and to the Successor of Peter. Reminding you that – as Saint Paul said (cf.
Rom 8:35-39) – no difficulty can separate us from the love of Christ, I am
confident that you will do everything possible, trusting in the Lord's grace, to
safeguard unity and ecclesial communion even at the cost of great sacrifices.
Many members of the Chinese episcopate who have guided the Church in recent
decades have offered and continue to offer a shining testimony to their own
communities and to the universal Church. Once again, let a heartfelt hymn of
praise and thanksgiving be sung to the "chief Shepherd'' of the flock (1
5:4): in fact, it must not be forgotten that many Bishops have undergone
persecution and have been impeded in the exercise of their ministry, and some of
them have made the Church fruitful with the shedding of their blood. Modern
times and the consequent challenge of the new evangelization highlight the role
of the episcopal ministry. As John Paul II said to the Pastors from every part
of the world who gathered in Rome for the celebration of the Jubilee, "the Pastor is the first to take responsibility for and to encourage the ecclesial
community, both in the requirement of communion and in the missionary outreach.
Regarding the relativism and subjectivism which mar so much of contemporary
culture, Bishops are called to defend and promote the doctrinal unity of their
faithful. Concerned for every situation in which the faith has been lost or is
unknown, they work with all their strength for evangelization, preparing
priests, religious and lay people for this task and making the necessary
On the same occasion, my venerable predecessor recalled that "the Bishop, a
successor of the Apostles, is someone for whom Christ is everything: 'For to me
to live is Christ ...' (Phil 1:21). He must bear witness to this in all
his actions. The Second Vatican Council teaches: 'Bishops should devote
themselves to their apostolic office as witnesses of Christ to all' (Decree
Christus Dominus, 11)''.38
Concerning episcopal service, then, I take the opportunity to recall something I
said recently: "The Bishops are primarily responsible for building up the
Church as a family of God and a place of mutual help and availability. To be
able to carry out this mission, you received with episcopal consecration three
special offices: the munus docendi, the munus sanctificandi and
the munus regendi, which all together constitute the munus pascendi.
In particular, the aim of the munus regendi is growth in ecclesial
communion, that is, in building a community in agreement and listening to the
Apostles' teaching, the breaking of bread, prayer and fellowship. Closely linked
to the offices of teaching and of sanctifying, that of governing – the munus
regendi precisely – constitutes for the Bishop an authentic act of love for
God and for one's neighbour, which is expressed in pastoral charity''.39
As in the rest of the world, in China too the Church is governed by Bishops who,
through episcopal ordination conferred upon them by other validly ordained
Bishops, have received, together with the sanctifying office, the offices of
teaching and governing the people entrusted to them in their respective
particular Churches, with a power that is conferred by God through the grace of
the sacrament of Holy Orders. The offices of teaching and governing ‘‘however,
by their very nature can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the
head and members of the college'' of Bishops.40 In fact, as the
Council went on to say, "a person is made a member of the episcopal body in
virtue of the sacramental consecration and by hierarchical communion with the
head and members of the college''.41
Currently, all the Bishops of the Catholic Church in China are sons of the
Chinese People. Notwithstanding many grave difficulties, the Catholic Church in
China, by a particular grace of the Holy Spirit, has never been deprived of the
ministry of legitimate Pastors who have preserved the apostolic succession
intact. We must thank the Lord for this constant presence, not without
suffering, of Bishops who have received episcopal ordination in conformity with
Catholic tradition, that is to say, in communion with the Bishop of Rome,
Successor of Peter, and at the hands of validly and legitimately ordained
Bishops in observance of the rite of the Catholic Church.
Some of them, not wishing to be subjected to undue control exercised over the
life of the Church, and eager to maintain total fidelity to the Successor of
Peter and to Catholic doctrine, have felt themselves constrained to opt for
clandestine consecration. The clandestine condition is not a normal feature of
the Church's life, and history shows that Pastors and faithful have recourse to
it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith
and to resist interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately
to the Church's life. For this reason the Holy See hopes that these legitimate
Pastors may be recognized as such by governmental authorities for civil effects
too – insofar as these are necessary – and that all the faithful may be able to
express their faith freely in the social context in which they live.
Other Pastors, however, under the pressure of particular circumstances, have
consented to receive episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate, but
have subsequently asked to be received into communion with the Successor of
Peter and with their other brothers in the episcopate. The Pope, considering the
sincerity of their sentiments and the complexity of the situation, and taking
into account the opinion of neighbouring Bishops, by virtue of his proper
responsibility as universal Pastor of the Church, has granted them the full and
legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction. This initiative of the Pope
resulted from knowledge of the particular circumstances of their ordination and
from his profound pastoral concern to favour the reestablishment of full
communion. Unfortunately, in most cases, priests and the faithful have not been
adequately informed that their Bishop has been legitimized, and this has given
rise to a number of grave problems of conscience. What is more, some legitimized
Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to prove that they have been
legitimized. For this reason it is indispensable, for the spiritual good of the
diocesan communities concerned, that legitimation, once it has occurred, is
brought into the public domain at the earliest opportunity, and that the
legitimized Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion
with the Successor of Peter.
Finally, there are certain Bishops – a very small number of them – who have been
ordained without the Pontifical mandate and who have not asked for or have not
yet obtained, the necessary legitimation. According to the doctrine of the
Catholic Church, they are to be considered illegitimate, but validly ordained,
as long as it is certain that they have received ordination from validly
ordained Bishops and that the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination has been
respected. Therefore, although not in communion with the Pope, they exercise
their ministry validly in the administration of the sacraments, even if they do
so illegitimately. What great spiritual enrichment would ensue for the Church in
China if, the necessary conditions having been established, these Pastors too
were to enter into communion with the Successor of Peter and with the entire
Catholic episcopate! Not only would their episcopal ministry be legitimized,
there would also be an enrichment of their communion with the priests and the
faithful who consider the Church in China part of the Catholic Church, united
with the Bishop of Rome and with all the other particular Churches spread
throughout the world.
In individual nations, all the legitimate Bishops constitute an Episcopal
Conference, governed according to its own statutes, which by the norms of canon
law must be approved by the Apostolic See. Such an Episcopal Conference
expresses the fraternal communion of all the Bishops of a nation and treats the
doctrinal and pastoral questions that are significant for the entire Catholic
community of the country without, however, interfering in the exercise of the
ordinary and immediate power of each Bishop in his own diocese. Moreover, every
Episcopal Conference maintains opportune and useful contacts with the civil
authorities of the place, partly in order to favour cooperation between the
Church and the State, but it is obvious that an Episcopal Conference cannot be
subjected to any civil authority in questions of faith and of living according
to the faith (fides et mores, sacramental life), which are exclusively
the competence of the Church.
In the light of the principles expounded above, the present College of Catholic
Bishops of China42 cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by
the Apostolic See: the "clandestine'' Bishops, those not recognized by the
Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes
Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain
elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine.
Appointment of Bishops
9. As all of you know, one of the most delicate problems in relations between
the Holy See and the authorities of your country is the question of episcopal
appointments. On the one hand, it is understandable that governmental
authorities are attentive to the choice of those who will carry out the
important role of leading and shepherding the local Catholic communities, given
the social implications which – in China as in the rest of the world – this
function has in the civil sphere as well as the spiritual. On the other hand,
the Holy See follows the appointment of Bishops with special care since this
touches the very heart of the life of the Church, inasmuch as the appointment of
Bishops by the Pope is the guarantee of the unity of the Church and of
hierarchical communion. For this reason the
Code of Canon Law (cf. c.
1382) lays down grave sanctions both for the Bishop who freely confers episcopal
ordination without an apostolic mandate and for the one who receives it: such an
ordination in fact inflicts a painful wound upon ecclesial communion and
constitutes a grave violation of canonical discipline.
The Pope, when he issues the apostolic mandate for the ordination of a Bishop,
exercises his supreme spiritual authority: this authority and this intervention
remain within the strictly religious sphere. It is not, therefore, a question of
a political authority, unduly asserting itself in the internal affairs of a
State and offending against its sovereignty.
The appointment of Bishops for a particular religious community is understood,
also in international documents, as a constitutive element of the full exercise
of the right to religious freedom.43 The Holy See would desire to be
completely free to appoint Bishops;44 therefore, considering the
recent particular developments of the Church in China, I trust that an accord
can be reached with the Government so as to resolve certain questions regarding
the choice of candidates for the episcopate, the publication of the appointment
of Bishops, and the recognition – concerning civil effects where necessary – of
the new Bishops on the part of the civil authorities.
Finally, as to the choice of candidates for the episcopate, while knowing your
difficulties in this regard, I would like to remind you that they should be
worthy priests, respected and loved by the faithful, models of life in the
faith, and that they should possess a certain experience in the pastoral
ministry, so that they are equipped to address the burdensome responsibility of
a Pastor of the Church.45 Whenever it proves impossible within a
diocese to find suitable candidates to occupy the episcopal see, the cooperation
of Bishops in neighbouring dioceses can help to identify suitable candidates.
GUIDELINES FOR PASTORAL LIFE
Sacraments, governance of dioceses, parishes
10. In recent times difficulties have emerged, linked to individual initiatives
taken by Pastors, priests and lay faithful, who, moved by generous pastoral
zeal, have not always respected the tasks or responsibilities of others.
In this regard, the Second Vatican Council reminds us that, if on the one hand
individual Bishops "as members of the episcopal college and legitimate
successors of the Apostles, by Christ's arrangement and decree [are] bound to be
solicitous for the entire Church'', on the other hand they "exercise their
pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them, not over
other Churches nor over the Church universal''.46
Moreover, faced with certain problems that have emerged in various diocesan
communities during recent years, I feel it incumbent upon me to recall the
canonical norm according to which every cleric must be incardinated in a
particular Church or in an Institute of consecrated life and must exercise his
own ministry in communion with the diocesan Bishop. Only for good reasons may a
cleric exercise his ministry in another diocese, but always with the prior
agreement of the two diocesan Bishops, that is, the Ordinary of the particular
Church in which he is incardinated and the Ordinary of the particular Church for
whose service he is destined.47
In not a few situations, then, you have faced the problem of concelebration of
the Eucharist. In this regard, I remind you that this presupposes, as
conditions, profession of the same faith and hierarchical communion with the
Pope and with the universal Church. Therefore it is licit to concelebrate with
Bishops and with priests who are in communion with the Pope, even if they are
recognized by the civil authorities and maintain a relationship with entities
desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, provided – as was said earlier
(cf. section 7 above, paragraph 8) – that this recognition and this relationship
do not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of the faith and of
The lay faithful too, who are animated by a sincere love for Christ and for the
Church, must not hesitate to participate in the Eucharist celebrated by Bishops
and by priests who are in full communion with the Successor of Peter and are
recognized by the civil authorities. The same applies for all the other
Concerning Bishops whose consecrations took place without the pontifical mandate
yet respecting the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination, the resulting problems
must always be resolved in the light of the principles of Catholic doctrine.
Their ordination – as I have already said (cf. section 8 above, paragraph 12) –
is illegitimate but valid, just as priestly ordinations conferred by them are
valid, and sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests are likewise
valid. Therefore the faithful, taking this into account, where the eucharistic
celebration and the other sacraments are concerned, must, within the limits of
the possible, seek Bishops and priests who are in communion with the Pope:
nevertheless, where this cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they
may, for the sake of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in
communion with the Pope.
I consider it opportune, finally, to point out to you what canonical legislation
provides in order to help diocesan Bishops to carry out their respective
pastoral duty. Every diocesan Bishop is invited to make use of indispensable
instruments of communion and cooperation within the diocesan Catholic community:
the diocesan curia, the presbyteral council, the college of consultors, the
diocesan pastoral council and the diocesan finance council. These agencies
express communion, they favour the sharing of common responsibilities and are of
great assistance to the Pastors, who can thus avail themselves of the fraternal
cooperation of priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful.
The same is true of the various councils that canon law provides for parishes:
the parish pastoral council and the parish finance council.
Both for dioceses and for parishes, particular attention must be devoted to the
Church's temporal goods, moveable and immoveable, which must be legally
registered in the civil sphere in the name of the diocese or parish and never in
the name of individual persons (that is, the Bishop, parish priest or a group of
the faithful). Meanwhile, the traditional pastoral and missionary guideline that
can be neatly summarized in the principle: "nihil sine Episcopo'';
retains all its validity.
From the analysis of the problems outlined above, it emerges clearly that any
real solution will be rooted in the promotion of communion, which draws its
vigour and impetus, as from a source, from Christ, the icon of the Father's
love. Charity, which is always above everything (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-12), will
be the force and the criterion in pastoral work for the construction of an
ecclesial community capable of making the Risen Christ present to modern man.
11. Numerous administrative changes have taken place in the civil sphere during
the last fifty years. This has also involved various ecclesiastical
circumscriptions, which have been eliminated or regrouped or have been modified
in their territorial configuration on the basis of the civil administrative
circumscriptions. In this regard, I wish to confirm that the Holy See is
prepared to address the entire question of the circumscriptions and
ecclesiastical provinces in an open and constructive dialogue with the Chinese
Episcopate and – where opportune and helpful – with governmental authorities.
12. I am well aware that the diocesan and parochial communities, spread over the
vast Chinese territory, demonstrate a particular liveliness of Christian life,
witness of faith and pastoral initiative. It is consoling for me to note that,
despite past and present difficulties, the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons
and lay faithful have maintained a profound awareness of being living members of
the universal Church, in communion of faith and life with all the Catholic
communities throughout the world. They know in their hearts what it means to be
Catholic. And it is precisely from this Catholic heart that the commitment must
likewise issue forth to make manifest and effective, both within individual
communities and in relations between different communities, that spirit of
communion, understanding and forgiveness which – as was said earlier (cf.
section 5 above, paragraph 4, and section 6) – is the visible seal of an
authentic Christian life. I am sure that the Spirit of Christ, just as he helped
the communities to keep the faith alive in time of persecution, will today help
all Catholics to grow in unity.
As I have already observed (cf. section 2 above, paragraph 1, and section 4,
paragraph 1), members of Catholic communities in your country – especially
Bishops, priests and consecrated persons – are unfortunately not yet allowed to
live and to express fully and visibly certain aspects of their belonging to the
Church and their hierarchical communion with the Pope, since free contact with
the Holy See and with other Catholic communities in various countries is
ordinarily impeded. It is true that in recent years the Church has enjoyed
greater religious freedom than in the past. Nevertheless it cannot be denied
that grave limitations remain that touch the heart of the faith and that, to a
certain degree, suffocate pastoral activity. In this regard I renew my earnest
wish (cf. section 4 above, paragraphs 2, 3, 4) that in the course of a
respectful and open dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese Bishops on the
one hand, and the governmental authorities on the other, the difficulties
mentioned may be overcome and thus a fruitful understanding may be reached that
will prove beneficial to the Catholic community and to social cohesion.
13. I would now like to address a special reflection and an invitation to
priests – especially those ordained in recent years – who have undertaken the
path of the pastoral ministry with such generosity. It seems to me that the
current ecclesial and socio-political situation renders ever more urgent the
need to draw light and strength from the well-springs of priestly spirituality,
which are God's love, the unconditional following of Christ, passion for
proclamation of the Gospel, faithfulness to the Church and generous service of
neighbour.48 How can I fail to recall, in this regard, as an
encouragement for all, the shining examples of Bishops and priests who, in the
difficult years of the recent past, have testified to an unfailing love for the
Church, even by the gift of their own lives for her and for Christ?
My dear priests! You who bear "the burden of the day and the scorching heat'' (Mt
20:12), who have put your hand to the plough and do not look back (cf. Lk
9:62): think of those places where the faithful are waiting anxiously for a
priest and where for many years, feeling the lack of a priest, they have not
ceased to pray for one to arrive. I know that among you there are confrères who
have had to deal with difficult times and situations, adopting positions that
cannot always be condoned from an ecclesial point of view and who, despite
everything, want to return to full communion with the Church. In the spirit of
that profound reconciliation to which my venerable predecessor repeatedly
invited the Church in China,49 I turn now to the Bishops who are in
communion with the Successor of Peter, so that with a paternal spirit they may
evaluate these questions case by case and give a just response to that desire,
having recourse – if necessary – to the Apostolic See. And, as a sign of this
desired reconciliation, I think that there is no gesture more significant than
that of renewing as a community – on the occasion of the priestly day of Holy
Thursday, as happens in the universal Church, or on another occasion that might
be considered more opportune – the profession of faith, as a witness to the full
communion attained, for the edification of the Holy People of God entrusted to
your pastoral care, and to the praise of the Most Holy Trinity.
Furthermore, I realize that in China too, as in the rest of the Church, the need
for an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is emerging. Hence the
invitation, addressed to you Bishops as leaders of ecclesial communities, to
think especially of the young clergy who are increasingly subject to new
pastoral challenges, linked to the demands of the task of evangelizing a society
as complex as present-day Chinese society. Pope John Paul II reminded us of
this: ongoing formation of priests "is an intrinsic requirement of the gift and
sacramental ministry received; and it proves necessary in every age. It is
particularly urgent today, not only because of rapid changes in the social and
cultural conditions of individ- uals and peoples among whom priestly ministry is
exercised, but also because of that ‘new evangelization' which constitutes the
essential and pressing task of the Church at the end of the second millennium''.50
Vocations and religious formation
14. During the last fifty years, the Church in China has never lacked an
abundant flowering of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life. For
this we must thank the Lord, because it is a sign of vitality and a reason for
hope. Moreover, in the course of the years, many indigenous religious
congregations have emerged: Bishops and priests know from experience what an
indispensable contribution women religious make to catechesis and to parish life
in all its forms; moreover, care for the most needy, offered in cooperation with
the local civil authorities, is an expression of that charity and service of
neighbour that are the most credible witness of the power and vitality of the
Gospel of Jesus.
I am aware, however, that this flowering is accompanied, today, by not a few
difficulties. The need therefore emerges both for more careful vocational
discernment on the part of Church leaders, and for more in-depth education and
instruction of aspirants to the priesthood and religious life. Notwithstanding
the precariousness of the means available, for the future of the Church in China
it will be necessary to take steps to ensure, on the one hand, particular
attention in the care of vocations and, on the other hand, a more solid
formation with regard to the human, spiritual, philosophical-theological and
pastoral aspects, to be carried out in seminaries and religious institutes.
In this regard, the formation for celibacy of candidates for the priesthood
deserves particular mention. It is important that they learn to live and to
esteem celibacy as a precious gift from God and as an eminently eschatological
sign which bears witness to an undivided love for God and for his people, and
configures the priest to Jesus Christ, Head and Bridegroom of the Church. This
gift, in fact, in an outstanding way "expresses the priest's service to the
Church in and with the Lord'' 51 and has a prophetic value for
As for the religious vocation, in the present context of the Church in China it
is necessary that its two dimensions be seen ever more clearly: namely, on the
one hand, the witness of the charism of total consecration to Christ through the
vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and on the other hand, the response to
the demand to proclaim the Gospel in the socio- historical circumstances of the
The Lay Faithful and the Family
15. In the most difficult periods of the recent history of the Catholic Church
in China, the lay faithful, both as individuals and families and as members of
spiritual and apostolic movements, have shown total fidelity to the Gospel, even
paying a personal price for their faithfulness to Christ. My dear lay people,
you are called, today too, to incarnate the Gospel in your lives and to bear
witness to it by means of generous and effective service for the good of the
people and for the development of the country: and you will accomplish this
mission by living as honest citizens and by operating as active and responsible
co-workers in spreading the word of God to those around you, in the country or
in the city. You who in recent times have been courageous witnesses of the
faith, must remain the hope of the Church for the future! This demands from you
an ever more engaged participation in all areas of Church life, in communion
with your respective Pastors.
Since the future of humanity passes by way of the family, I consider it
indispensable and urgent that lay people should promote family values and
safeguard the needs of the family. Lay people, whose faith enables them to know
God's marvellous design for the family, have an added reason to assume this
concrete and demanding task: the family in fact "is the normal place where the
young grow to personal and social maturity. It is also the bearer of the
heritage of humanity itself, because through the family, life is passed on from generation to generation. The family occupies a very
important place in Asian cultures; and, as the Synod Fathers noted, family
values like filial respect, love and care for the aged and the sick, love of
children and harmony are held in high esteem in all Asian cultures and religious
The above-mentioned values form part of the relevant Chinese cultural context,
but also in your land there is no lack of forces that influence the family
negatively in various ways. Therefore the Church which is in China, aware that
the good of society and her own good are profoundly linked to the good of the
family,53 must have a keener and more urgent sense of her mission to
proclaim to all people God's plan for marriage and the family, ensuring the full
vitality of each.54
Christian initiation of adults
16. The recent history of the Catholic Church in China has seen a large number
of adults coming to the faith, thanks partly to the witness of the local
Christian community. You, Pastors, are called to devote particular care to their
Christian initiation via an appropriate and serious period of catechumenate
aimed at helping them and preparing them to lead the life of Jesus' disciples.
In this regard, I would mention that evangelization is never purely intellectual
communication, but rather includes experience of life, purification and
transformation of the whole of existence, and a journey in communion. Only in
this way is a proper relationship established between thought and life.
Looking then to the past, it is unfortunately the case that many adults have not
always been sufficiently initiated into the complete truth of Christian life and
have not even known the richness of the renewal brought by the Second Vatican
Council. It therefore seems necessary and urgent to offer them a solid and
thorough Christian formation, in the shape of a post-baptismal catechumenate.55
The missionary vocation
17. The Church, always and everywhere missionary, is called to proclaim and to
bear witness to the Gospel. The Church in China must also sense in her heart the
missionary ardour of her Founder and Teacher.
Addressing young pilgrims on the Mount of the Beatitudes in the Holy Year 2000,
John Paul II said: "At the moment of his Ascension, Jesus gave his disciples a
mission and this reassurance: 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given
to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations ... and behold, I am
with you always, until the end of the age' (Mt 28:18-20). For
two-thousand years Christ's followers have carried out this mission. Now, at the
dawn of the third millennium, it is your turn. It is your turn to go out
into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the
Beatitudes. When God speaks, he speaks of things which have the greatest
importance for each person, for the people of the twenty-first century no less
than those of the first century. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes speak
of truth and goodness, of grace and freedom: of all that is necessary to enter
into Christ's Kingdom''.56
Now it is your turn, Chinese disciples of the Lord, to be courageous apostles of
that Kingdom. I am sure that your response will be most generous.
Revocation of faculties and of pastoral directives
18. Considering in the first place some positive developments of the situation
of the Church in China, and in the second place the increased opportunities and
greater ease in communication, and finally the requests sent to Rome by various
Bishops and priests, I hereby revoke all the faculties previously granted in
order to address particular pastoral necessities that emerged in truly difficult
Let the same be applied to all directives of a pastoral nature, past and recent.
The doctrinal principles that inspired them now find a new application in the
directives contained herein.
A day of prayer for the Church in China
19. Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May could in the future
become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer
with the Church which is in China. This day is dedicated to the liturgical
memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion
at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.
I would like that date to be kept by you as a day of prayer for the Church in
China. I encourage you to celebrate it by renewing your communion of faith in
Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity
among you may become ever deeper and more visible. I remind you, moreover, of
the commandment that Jesus gave us, to love our enemies and to pray for those
who persecute us, as well as the invitation of the Apostle Saint Paul: ‘‘First
of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and
thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions,
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.
This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires
all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth'' (1 Tim
On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world – in particular those who are
of Chinese origin – will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude
for you, asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in
the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus
and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at
times everything can seem a failure.
20. At the conclusion of this Letter I pray that you, dear Pastors of the
Catholic Church which is in China, priests, consecrated persons and lay
faithful, may "rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer
various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold
which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and
honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ'' (1 Pet 1:6-7).
May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of China, who at the hour of
the Cross patiently awaited the morning of the Resurrection in the silence of
hope, accompany you with maternal solicitude and intercede for all of you,
together with Saint Joseph and the countless Holy Martyrs of China.
I assure you of my constant prayers and, with affectionate remembrance of the
elderly, the sick, the children and young people of your noble Nation, I bless
you from my heart.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 27 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the
year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.
Angelus of 26 December 2006:
"With special spiritual closeness, I also think of those Catholics who maintain their fidelity to the
See of Peter without ceding to compromises, sometimes at the price of grave
sufferings. The whole Church admires their example and prays that they will have
the strength to persevere, knowing that their tribulations are the fount of
victory, even if at that moment they can seem a failure''. L'Osservatore
Romano, English edition, 3 January 2007, p. 12.
2Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the
Gaudium et Spes, 10.
3Message to the participants of the International Convention ‘‘Matteo Ricci: for
a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001), 4: L'Osservatore
Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, p. 3.
4Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Ecclesia in Asia (6
November 1999), 7: AAS 92 (2000), 456.
5Cf. ibid., 19, 20: AAS 92 (2000), 477-482.
6Cf. Address to members of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences
(Manila, 15 January 1995), 11: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 25
January 1995, p. 6.
7John Paul II, Apostolic Letter
Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001),
1: AAS 93 (2001), 266.
General Audience (Wednesday 23 August 2006), L'Osservatore
Romano, English edition, 30 August 2006, p. 3.
9John Paul II,
Message to the participants of the International Convention
‘‘Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001),
6: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, pp. 3-4.
11Cf. Fonti Ricciane, ed. Pasquale M. D'Elia, S.J., vol. 2,
Rome 1949, no. 617, p. 152.
12Message to the participants of the International Convention ‘‘Matteo Ricci: for
a dialogue between China and the West'' (24 October 2001), 4: L'Osservatore
Romano, English edition, 31 October 2001, p. 3.
13Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World
Gaudium et Spes,
15Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 26.
17Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the
Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion
Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 11-14: AAS 85 (1993), 844-847.
18Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 23.
19Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the
Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion
Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 13: AAS 85 (1993), 846.
20See also Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Caritatis (22 February 2007), 6: ‘‘The Church's faith is essentially a
eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist.
Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life.
Awakened by the preaching of God's word, faith is nourished and grows in the
grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments:
‘faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens
faith.' For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of
the Church's life: ‘thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!'
The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its
sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by
Christ to his disciples. The Church's very history bears witness to this. Every
great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the
Lord's eucharistic presence among his people''.
Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 42: AAS
93 (2001), 296. See also Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter
Est (25 December 2005), 12: "Divine activity now takes on dramatic form
when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the 'stray sheep', a suffering and lost humanity. When Jesus speaks in his parables of the
shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost
coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no
mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity. His
death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in
which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in
its most radical form'': AAS 98 (2006), 228.
General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano,
English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
23The lived experience of the ancient Church in time of persecution should be a
source of enlightenment for all, as should the teaching given on this matter by
the Church of Rome herself. Rome rejected the rigorist positions of the
Novatians and the Donatists, and appealed for a generous attitude of pardon and
reconciliation towards those who had apostatized during the persecutions (the "lapsi''),
and wished to be readmitted to the communion of the Church.
24John Paul II,
Message to the Catholic community in China Alla Vigilia (8
December 1999), 6: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 15 December
1999, p. 5.
25Cf. Mt 4:8-10; Jn 6:15.
26Cf. Is 42:1-4.
27Cf. Jn 18:37.
28Cf. Mt 26:51-53; Jn 18:36.
29Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Liberty
Dignitatis Humanae, 11.
General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano,
English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
31Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the
Gaudium et Spes, 28.
General Audience (Wednesday 5 April 2006): L'Osservatore Romano,
English edition, 12 April 2006, p. 11.
34John Paul II, Apostolic Letter
Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 10: AAS
90 (1998), 648.
35Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 447.
36Statutes of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), 2004, art. 3.
37Homily for the Jubilee of Bishops (8 October 2000), 5: AAS 93 (2001), 28.
Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops
in the Church
Christus Dominus, 6.
Address to new Bishops (21 September 2006): AAS 98 (2006),
41Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 22. Cf. also
"Preliminary Explanatory Note'', No. 2.
42China Catholic Bishops' College (CCBC).
43At the universal level, see, for example, the provisions of art. 18, paragraph
1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December
1966 ("Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and
religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or
belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with
others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship,
observance, practice and teaching'') and the interpretation, binding for Member
States, given to it by the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in
"General Comment 22'' (paragraph 4) of 30 July 1993 ("the practice and
teaching of religion or belief includes acts integral to the conduct by
religious groups of their basic affairs, such as freedom to choose their
religious leaders, priests and teachers, the freedom to establish seminaries or
religious schools and the freedom to prepare and distribute religious texts or
At the regional level, then, see, for example, the following commitments,
assumed at the Vienna Meeting of the Representatives of States participating in
the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE): "In order to
ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practise religion or belief,
the participating States will, inter alia ... respect the right of these
religious communities to ... organize themselves according to their own
hierarchical and institutional structure ... select, appoint and replace their
personnel in accordance with their respective requirements and standards as well
as with any freely accepted arrangement between them and their State''.
(Concluding Document of 1989, Principle No. 16 of the Section 'Questions
relating to Security in Europe''). Cf. also Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,
Declaration on Religious Liberty
Dignitatis Humanae, 4.
44Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops
in the Church
Christus Dominus, 20.
46Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 23.
48For a reflection on the doctrine and spirituality of the priest and on the
charism of celibacy, I refer to my
address to the Roman Curia (22 December
2006): L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 3 January 2007, p. 6.
49Cf. John Paul II,
Message to the Church which is in China on the Seventieth
Anniversary of the Ordination in Rome of the First Group of Chinese Bishops and
on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Institution of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy
in China La Memoria Liturgica (3 December 1996), 4: AAS 89 (1997),
50Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992),
70: AAS 84 (1992), 782.
51Ibid., 29: AAS 84 (1992), 704.
52John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Ecclesia in Asia (6
November 1999), 46: AAS 92 (2000), 521. Cf. Benedict XVI,
Fifth World Meeting of Families in Spain (Valencia, 8 July 2006): ‘‘The family
is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a
great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who
are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of
their parents. To proclaim the whole truth about the family based on marriage as
a domestic Church and a sanctuary of life, is a great responsibility
incumbent upon all ... Christ has shown us what is always the supreme source of
our life and thus of the lives of families: ‘This is my commandment, that you
love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay
down one's life for one's friends' (Jn 15:12-13). The love of God himself
has been poured out upon us in Baptism. Consequently, families are called to
experience this same kind of love, for the Lord makes it possible for us,
through our human love, to be sensitive, loving and merciful like Christ'':
AAS 98 (2006), 591-592.
53Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in
the Modern World
Gaudium et Spes, 47.
54Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation
Familiaris Consortio (22 November
1981), 3: AAS 74 (1982), 84.
55As the Synod Fathers of the Seventh Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
observed (1-30 October 1987), in the formation of Christians "a post-baptismal
catechesis in the form of a catechumenate can also be helpful by presenting
again some elements from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with the
purpose of allowing a person to grasp and live the immense, extraordinary
richness and responsibility received at Baptism'': John Paul II, Post-Synodal
Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 61: AAS
81 (1989), 514. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1230-1231.
56Homily on the Mount of the Beatitudes (Israel, 24 March 2000), 5:
L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 29 March 2000, p. 9.